Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The 'Standard's' Anniversary. (1909)

Editorial from the September 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 'Standard's ' Anniversary.
With this issue we begin our sixth annual volume. The working class still requires an organ that shall faithfully carry on the work of proletarian enlightenment; an organ unsullied by compromise and capable of uncovering the enemy’s every move. Such the Socialist Standard has been, and in the future we expect to be able to perform this great work for our class with enhanced vigour and greater success. The paper is now eagerly awaited every month by many, who, while they are not yet members of our party, are realising that all is not well with their present affiliations. Its pronouncements on topical matters are read with interest, for while necessarily often somewhat late, yet our readers realise as a rule that they are dictated by the cool judgement of Socialist contributors who have taken the trouble to understand capitalism, and who do not sloppily misrepresent— for the sake of literary effect and flourish. While those who seek sound theoretical articles teaching some phase of Socialist thought, know that nothing beats the little "Standard.”

We still pursue our policy of refusing commercial advertisements, loss of income thereby notwithstanding. The paper is all the better for it; for the danger of the possible influence of advertisers upon the paper’s policy and utterance is obviated. So that, in spite of their small size, our eight pages (through the absence of advertisements and routine matter) are found to contain more actual, sound, reading matter than many of our bigger contemporaries.

We are glad to find readers taking advantage of our "Forum” feature, and are always pleased to answer correspondents who submit questions on Socialism or as to the attitude of the S.P.G.B. upon different subjects. And not infrequently we have the satisfaction of knowing that the questioner has joined our organisation.

The paper is still produced without payment of any kind for any of the contributary or editorial work. Workingmen are still to be found who, without payment, and with mighty little thanks as a rule, will “burn the candle at both ends,” in the service of their class. After a hard day’s toil, and between propaganda meetings, amid all the difficulties of a workman’s condition, this labour of love is done, yes, often enough the small hours arrive before the article or column of notes is thought out and written, and the weary writer seeks his bed, with at least the satisfaction of knowing that another blow has been dealt the enemy, some fellow slave helped to an understanding of his enslavement. However, more contributions are needed, and comrades are requested to help to the best of their ability. Many hands make light work. With more contributors and the support through our “Party Organ Fund ” (monetary contributions are requested as printers’ bills have to be met), it should be possible to effect the enlargement of the paper, thus enabling us to reach a larger public and to do better work generally for Socialism. And so there is “work for all” in writing and circulating the Socialist Standard to the end that the workers may the sooner see the light and march on to their emancipation.

The Labour Party and the Law. (1909)

Editorial from the February 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent ruling of the Appeal Court that Trade Unions have no legal power to force their members into supporting any political party, even when a majority of that Trade Union agrees to supporting that political party, came as a veritable bolt from the blue. The Labour Party, “the new force in politics,” the political organisation which in 1906 claimed that it had frightened the House of Lords into passing the Trades Disputes Bill, awakens in 1909 to discover that it has no legal standing at all, and is only suffered to exist by the voluntary support of its members. Now while we agree that political work must be done voluntarily, as is the whole of the work of the S.P.G.B., because only then is it the expression of the real convictions of the person expressing it, it is doubtful indeed whether the Labour Party can depend upon sufficient voluntary pence to pay its members’ salaries and its working expenses. Hence the decision o( the Labour Party to appeal against the Appeal Court's finding, and to attempt to cling to the privilege of levying Trade Union members for the support of a political party over which they have little or no control.

The rabid anti-Socialist Press, like the Daily Express, accused the Socialists of capturing the Trade Unions by controlling the Labour Party; but the Labour Party is not a Socialist party any more than it is a Tory party, its political representatives being mainly concerned with maintaining the status quo, keeping their seats—and their jobs. So the job-hunters who run the show have to pose as advanced reformers to the rank and file of the I.L.P., who do the work, and as tolerant, “practical,” men to the Trade Unions, who find the money. The net result to the working class is, in addition to the loss of their money, the disappointment of seeing nothing as the result of their expenditure of money, energy, and enthusiasm in “independent” politics. Yet these people have the ear of the public, and the Socialist has but little chance of a hearing. To believe that so great a sham can last for long is to be with as little faith in the workers as those middle-class “leaders" who have so graciously come among us to lead us, and who contemn us meanwhile.

The Socialist Party is clear that in the first, place the trade organisation is not the starting point of the political organisation if for no other reason than the fact that the unit of the union is the trade, while the unit of the political organisation is the locality; and in the second place that the workers’ effort towards their emancipation must be made voluntarily as the result of conviction of “class-consciousness”; certainly not as the result of watering down the position to appeal to a majority, and then using that majority to enforce the financial support of the minority of a type of organisation which has been enabled to build up its membership partly owing to the fact that party feeling in political matters has been rigidly excluded.

Sark! (1909)

From the February 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since our last issue an event, so fraught with human importance that it is bound to become historic, has taken place. Not with a flourish of trumpets, not with a dazzling display on those beautious wayside erections which (it is alleged) many members of the working class, with truly revolutionary disregard for the rights others, claim as “ the working man’s picture gallery,” but quietly, quietly as nature working up to some catastrophic horror, this event baa been developed. In its making it has been evolutionary, doubtless enough, but in its birth, its being launched upon the sea of human environment, it is cataclysmal.

Kata, Greek prefix signifying down, back, thorough; Greek, kluzo, to wash. What should we working men who write for working men do without our Latin and our Greek? Cataclysmal is the very adjective. This event which I speak of has burst upon us as a deluge, a flood; it has given us a thorough sluicing; it has been kluso, to wash (and plenty of it), and kato, down (and up), back (and front) and tree-mendiously thorough. It has been a political washout, and the ground whereon we stood is holey ground, with a vengeance. Gone is that pyramid of economic sophistry and hare-brained political quackery on which we had elevated ourselves to conspicuity; gone also that underlying working-class ignorance and hankering after the moon without which as a foundation our pyramid had never been erected at all, and we and those who gave us faith (it is quite inconceivable that any thought for themselves) stand in gullies and hollows, but with our political feet upon the firm rock of truth of the tertiary formation—as we know by its fossils.

And this event is the publication of the first number of the Anti-Socialist. An auspicious birth, fellow members of the working class, since it spells doom to the Socialist movement. Alas! shall we be able to fulfil our obligations to those who have subscribed to the end of the volume? Shall see even another issue of The Socialist Standard? If there were shareholders —but this is not the Labour Leader.

The Anti-Socialist has the blessing of the Church in the person of our brother in Christ, the Canon of Westminster. Other notable sympathisers with what the Anti-Socialist lightly refers to as the ass-pirations of labour, who recommend the new publication to working men are Sir A. Acland Hood, Lord George Hamilton, Admiral Fremantle, C. Arthur Pearson, Andrew Carnegie, and the editor of the Daily Express. This galaxy of noble and disinterested champions of labour surely have a right to be heard with respect on the matter of what is the true interest of the workers. Andrew, at all events, we know to have very decided views upon the subject, as witness a little shooting affair at Pittsburg some score or so years ago, which is still held in sacred memory.

We are treated to a cartoon in this first number; it is entitled: The Workman's Dream. A workman is depicted, seated, and under the influence of the pantomimic gestures of an individual we are invited to imagine is a Socialist, while another individual labelled “Socialist” has extracted a resplendent watch and chain and quite a fabulous store of coin of the realm, from the subject’s pocket, while from the anticipatory smile on the face of the brigand (who, by the way, I am sure is meant for Mr. G. B. Shaw) there is plenty more to come. Inscribed thereunder we read “ The Socialists hypnotise the working man, and pick his pocket.” And what is the dream with which the Socialists have beguiled the working man while they are a doin’ of it? The artist has given it expression. The worker dreams that he has an easy chair to sit in, a fender to put his feet on, and a table —with some grub on it. That is all, if we except a gem like a decanter stopper which decorates his finger. O chimeric vision of paradise! O ironic mockery! O wickedly delusive irradiance! A divan chair, a fender, and a table with some grub on it. Well might the workman suspect the intentions of those who lure him with such impossible extravagance. I notice that the worker still wears his hob-nails and corduroys. It would fairly have given the Socialists' game away to have suggested escape from these. Born in 'em, live in 'em, marry in ’em, die in ’em.
A. E. Jacomb

Wales — The Leasehold Racket (1963)

From the May 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Every time the Minister of Housing visits South Wales he is met with demonstrators demanding reform of the leasehold system. All the capitalist parties in Wales have this reform, in one form or another, in their programme. This article looks at the situation from the Socialist point of view.

When it is said that housing shortages are caused by the sudden flow of people into the big towns it is not always remembered that the other side of this coin is rural depopulation. Traditionally Wales has been one of the areas from which people have moved to the cities of England, particularly Liverpool, Birmingham and London. It has, therefore, suffered from falling, as opposed to rising, land values and all that this means. Today this is no longer really a problem in South Wales, though it persists in the North and other rural areas.

But the aspect of housing which is causing the most anxiety at the moment is the prevalence of leasehold. There has been talk of finance corporations holding South Wales in an “octopus grip.” Nine-tenths of the area is supposed to belong to the big estates which were once the property of Tory landowning families, many of whom have now been replaced by capitalists interested in landowning solely as a business.

When urban development began in earnest in South Wales in the second half of the nineteenth century the principle of the 99 year lease was widely applied and now the effects are being felt. In addition there is at present a shortage of freehold land which is the result of the flow of industry and workers into the area since the war. The increased demand for “property” which this has caused has aggravated the problem by raising land values. When a leaseholder sees that his lease has only twenty to thirty years to run he begins to think about renewing it. The landlord knowing that there is a shortage of freehold land is able to demand what seems to the leaseholder a fantastic price for the freehold or a new lease. Thus the approaching end of many 99 year leases and the present shortage of freehold land has brought the problem of leasehold in South Wales to a head.

Some people object to leasehold on what they call principle. For the landlord lets the land and the lessee undertakes to erect a building on it, but at the end of the lease the land and the building revert to the landlord. At the turn of the century some of the more “ radical ” Liberals saw this as a gross injustice and as another example of the rapacity of landlords. As a solution they suggested leasehold enfranchisement which basically means that the tenant is given the right to buy out compulsorily the landlord. Significantly enough, in that it bears out our contention that the Labour Party is the political heir of some elements in the old Liberal Party (this is particularly evident in non-conformist Wales), the Labour Party is pledged to this policy of leasehold enfranchisement. And, of course, wherever there’s a petty reform to support we find the Communist Party—in Wales it has made itself conspicuous in the campaign against leasehold.

We must, however, see this problem in perspective. The usual leasehold arrangement is for the landlord to let the land to a speculative builder who erects houses on it for a profit. Two-thirds of leasehold property in South Wales is not occupied by the ground lessee but by tenants paying an ordinary house-rent. The Labour Party recognises this when it says it only wants enfranchisement for owner-occupiers. Although for historical reasons there is probably a higher proportion of homeowners in Wales than in most parts of Britain this question of leasehold is of little importance: its abolition would be at best another minor reform of capitalism.

Quite understandably people are upset when they are faced with the choice of quitting the house they have come to regard as their own or of paying an impossible price for the freehold. But this is capitalism. It brings insecurity to all workers, including those who happen to think they own their own homes. The whole problem shows that the home-owner is no more secure than the tenant and for the same reason—the poverty which capitalism brings to all its workers.

Labour M.P. George Thomas has said of the finance corporations: “They are cashing in on the labour of our community and stealing the reward of our labour.” They are, he said, “social parasites.” True enough, landowners are parasites. It is plain to all that they receive an income solely because they happen to own a certain part of the globe. They are among those who "possess but do not produce." But why stop here? These capitalists whose business is landowning are only a small section of the capitalist class. The rest, too, are social parasites.
Adam Buick

Midlands and the North, Slumdom (1963)

From the May 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

If you want a fair idea of the blight inflicted on men's lives by early industrial capitalism, travel through England to the Midlands and the North, and take a good look at the housing there. In this region are the towns which were the classic homes of slumdom, with their mean and narrow streets, row upon huddled row of wretched little back-to-back hovels, where dampness, rat infestation and tuberculosis were rife. Here it was that men, women, and children, lived out their pitifully short and broken lives, slept from sheer exhaustion in the few hours respite from the hell of the mills, mines and factories. The capitalists, the mine and mill owners, the iron masters and others, also had homes near to their property, but not among the slums, of course.

Take a good look we said. No need to hurry about it. Any time in the next twenty, thirty or forty years will do, or even longer. These slums have been there for many many years and if we read the signs aright, will still be there when our grandchildren are growing old. The government, local authorities, and various experts who have written on the subject at least agree on one thing, that the slums in this region are just about the worst in England. It is said that this part of the country plus South Wales, contains more than half the 850,000 houses declared unfit in England and Wales in 1955. Housing Minister Sir Keith Joseph has admitted that the North of England has a far greater concentration of slums than anywhere in London. Dr. Hill, his predecessor, was a bit more specific. A few months earlier, he had pinpointed Liverpool as about the worst case in the country.

Certainly, if we go by the last official figures declared by local authorities and published as a White Paper in 1955, Liverpool does qualify for Dr. Hill’s dishonourable distinction. Over 88,000 (about 43 per cent.) of its 204,000 dwellings were then unfit for habitation. Manchester came a very close second with some 68,000 unfit out of 208,000—about 32 per cent. But one thing to remember about these figures, indeed the whole of the 1955 estimates is that they are probably conservative. They were in fact based on what local councils thought they could clear in the next few years, not what they thought should be cleared. In any case, there was not (and still is not) any nationally agreed standards by which obsolescence is judged. It is said that Liverpool went the whole hog and reported all of her known slums whereas some towns did not even bother to make a return to the Minister.

So these estimates have come under fire many times since 1955 and it is generally agreed that they are unrealistic. The true position is probably much worse— perhaps we shall never really know just how bad. Even those incurable optimists and promise breakers, the government of the day, have had to admit that “ . . . in about fifty areas, chiefly in the North and Midlands, the task of slum clearance will be a long job ” (White Paper Housing in England and Wales, February, 1962). A long job indeed! By the end of 1960, Manchester had managed to clear 7,737 and Liverpool 5,331. Birmingham had cleared 6,950 out of 50,250. At this rate, it will take between 50 and 100 years just to remove the existing slums.

But there is another factor—a constantly recurring one—which is like a thorn in the flesh of the town councils of this and every other region. Dilapidation. If it were just a question of pulling down the hovels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it might be a long job, but with perseverance the end would at least be in sight eventually, though probably not in our lifetime. But, of course, capitalism simply does not work that way. It makes a mockery of the planners’ efforts. As Gavin Lyall pointed out in the Sunday Times of 23/4/61:
   Slums are not a static thing. Every year, an average of 150,000 houses in the country become 100 years old. Against this, about 60,000 are demolished every year. At the present rate of progress . . . there are children not yet born who will be bringing up their own children in some of the houses of the northern cities, which even today are recognised as slums. 
Of course, the thing to remember is that it is workers and their families who occupy these grim holes now, and who will do so in the far off future visualised by Mr. Lyall and others. Let Dr. E. Sigsworth, Economic History Lecturer at Leeds University, tell you the reason. Addressing a conference on slum clearance at Bradford this year he said that “most people living in slums could not afford to pay an economic rent, let alone buy a house through a building society ” (Guardian, 11/3/63). So there it is in a nutshell, and we are back to the problem behind the problem—the sheer inability of some workers to afford anywhere better to live than broken-down hovels.

This unpleasant fact will no doubt have been noted by the various planners and reformers groping for an answer to the muddle, but we can take a bet that its deeper implications will have escaped them. For them it is not just a question of pulling down slums, but their replacement with low cost houses for workers to rent. They miss the point that therein lies the foundation of future slumdom, for cutting costs means cutting standards. For example, the average floor area of new three bedroomed council houses in England and Wales declined from 1,050 sq. ft. in 1951 to 901 sq. ft. in 1958. Dr. Sigsworth advocates subsidised local authority housing but clearly this is no answer. Local authority housing has been subsidised to some extent or another for the best part of a century. According to the 1961 interim report of the Rowntree Trust Housing Study, about three million council houses have been built since the first world war, “with the aid of subsidies and sixty-year loans.” But the housing problem weighs as oppressively as ever.

An indication of the obsession with costs which affects building just like any other industry under capitalism, can be gained from the recent report that Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham are negotiating to form a consortium to make possible the mass production of building materials, the standardisation of fittings and equipment, and cheaper bulk buying (our italics).

One of the reasons that “overspill” development is preferred to high density town building is because the cost to the government is very much less. J. B. Cuillingworth estimated in 1960 that the subsidy cost of 500,000 high flats on a central site would be about £34 millions a year compared with £12 millions for the same number of dwellings in a new or expanded town (Housing Needs and Planning Policy, p. 173).

So the more we look at the problem of the Midlands and the North, the more we see that it is really the same problem as elsewhere, only more acute. The older industrial areas of this region are the worst off and even the most optimistic forecaster dares not hope for an improvement in his lifetime. There are the added complication of industrial decline, the slow but stubborn growth of unemployment, and the subsequent drift of population southwards in search of work.

It is in fact a familiar story of capitalism. There will be a familiar ring too, about the news that houses were much more difficult to sell in 1962 than for some years past, despite a freer supply of mortgages and average prices in the North being only about half those in London. This was certainly not because people’s housing needs were met—we know that is not true. But then capitalism does not exist for such purpose anyway. Its prime aim is the satisfaction of a market, whether in housing or anything else.
Eddie Critchfield

Essential Reading (1975)

From the March 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain and Historical Materialism — A Socialist Analysis of the Materialist Conception of History. Published by the SPGB. 20p. 

At last we have this eagerly awaited pamphlet. It is a definitive statement which explodes all the confusion surrounding Marx’s teachings on history. Sprinkled with examples from Roman, feudal and modern times, it is concise but authoritative — a textbook on history in itself.

But it is more than that. Once and for all the “mystery” created by terminology has been ended: Dialectics, Idealism, Materialism, Mind and Matter, Thought and Deed, Theory and Practice. Dialectics is clearly explained as simply the ancient Greek word for evolution — the expression for looking at things developing.

How much ink and paper has been spent on purporting to explain the Marxian dialectic but, in fact, “justifying” the unprincipled opportunism of this or that reformist party. None more so than the Leninist Bolsheviks, who claimed the sole copyright of dialectics, appointing themselves the high priests of this mystic cult:
Only the Communists apply the dialectic-materialist teachings of Marx and Engels in the spirit of their founders.
L. Rudas, Dialectical Materialism and the Social Democracy (translated from the German edition).
How many unfortunate workers—members of the CP (and its Trotskyite splinters) have had their poor skulls cracked by trying to understand the jargon-ridden interpretations of “only the Communists”! Stalin, “Lenin’s best pupil”, physically exterminated the Bolshevik Old Guard in the holy name of “dialectics”. Socialism became state-capitalism; capitalist profit became socialist profit; freedom, tyranny; democracy, dictatorship.

Voting for the capitalist Labour Party? Pacts with Nazi Germany? Strike-breaking in support of imperialist wars? Calling left right? Making wrong right? “It’s all in the dialectics, comrade! It’s dialectical contradiction, see?”

With this pamphlet, the game is up. Workers who read it can no longer have wool pulled over their eyes by Palme Dutt and other professional twisters with pseudo-Marxist rigmarole. Even the Bolsheviks were constrained to pour scorn on the naive Chinese who published theses on “the dialectics of hairdressing”, and the Hungarians who dropped the centre- forward of the state football team “for not applying the correct Marxist-Leninist dialectic on the football field” (i.e. not scoring enough goals).

Let all those who have been bemused by the highfalutin phrase-mongering take heart. The clear and definite answers are in this little book. The materialist conception of history is expounded with clarity and simplicity, without detracting from the immense sweep and profundity of Marx’s theory.

Human history is neatly marshalled and lucidly explained. In addition, the pamphlet carries two invaluable appendices. First, a comprehensive set of references to works before Marx, expounding previous rational theories of history. Second, a reprint of the essential statements by Marx and Engels on historical materialism.

A new and deadly weapon has been forced for the Socialist armoury.

One Thing the Romans Did For Us (2017)

The Material World column from the July 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

What did the Romans ever do for us – other than pass down their concepts of property? For instance, land in Rome could either be ‘private property’, res privata or managed by the city authorities such as a park in which case it would be part of the res publica. Res nullis referred to land belonging to no-one, ownerless, therefore, it was available for occupation, the justification on which the British settlement in Australia was based despite it already being the home of indigenous peoples. However, res communis property was territory not subject to the legal title of anyone. It could not be claimed by a state because it belonged to all, or ‘the common heritage of mankind.’ In the sixth century CE, the Institutes of Justinian codified the relevant Roman law as: ‘By the law of nature these things are common to mankind – the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea.’ Two modern-day examples of res communis would be the continent of Antarctica and outer space.

In 1908, Britain made claims on parts of Antarctica and after that, several other countries did likewise. To avoid conflicts, the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959. This was the start of the polar region being protected and preserved for the heritage of all. The treaty does not recognise territorial sovereignty claims ‘to ensure in the interests of all humankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.’

This year in October, the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (better known as the ‘Outer Space Treaty’) will turn 50. The Treaty explicitly forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet. Article Two of the Treaty states that ‘outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means’.

The 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other  Celestial Bodies (the ‘Moon Treaty’) was apparently intended as a new treaty to supersede or supplement the Outer Space Treaty, most notably by elaborating upon the outer space treaty’s provisions regarding resource appropriation and prohibition of territorial sovereignty.

It banned all exploration and uses of celestial bodies without the approval or benefit of other states under the ‘common heritage of humankind’ principle (article eleven). Dr. Christopher J. Newman, a reader in space law at the University of Sunderland explains ‘You couldn’t have the superpowers landing on the moon and carving up bits of territory on the moon. It’s not possible to own it, it’s not possible to appropriate it by means of sovereignty or any other such device. So it was designed to deal with a binary power bloc, and a superpower budget. The people who drafted the treaty didn’t have commercial space activity on their minds.’

They could not be expected to foresee the Space Act of 2015 (sometimes called the ‘Extraterrestrial Finders Keepers’ law), which grants US citizens or corporations the right to legally claim natural resources – including water and minerals. Commercial operations could reap trillions of dollars from mining precious metals like platinum, common metallic elements such as iron, and water. Handing out the right to exploit chunks of space to your citizens sounds very much like a claim of sovereignty. Congress is saying to these companies, ‘Go get these rights and we’ll defend you,’ and at the same time saying, ‘We’re making no sovereign claim of ownership’. The bottom line is, before you can give somebody the right to harvest a resource you have to have ownership.

Socialism has legal precedent back to Roman times for the aim of common ownership which can be defined as a situation where every individual has the potential ability to benefit from the wealth of society and to engage in the decision-making process of what and how we consume, to allocate resources in short-term and long-term collective goals. Even so, to use the word ‘ownership’ can be misleading in that this does not fully bring out the fact that the transfer to all members of the society of the power to control the production of wealth makes the very concept of property redundant. In that sense, socialism will be a ‘no-ownership’ society.

What is like gravity? (2005)

The Cooking the Books column from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard
Where you have generalised production for the market, the production and distribution of wealth escapes from human control and comes to be dominated by economic laws - such as "no profit, no production", "minimise costs", "maximise profits", "accumulate more and more capital" - which impose themselves on those taking day-to-day economic decisions as if they were natural laws.
In fact, early students of how the capitalist economy worked such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo thought that they really were studying natural laws, but Marx pointed out that this was only the appearance: the economic laws of capitalism only arose out of the particular social and economic basis of capitalism under which the means of production belonged to a minority class and where everything was produced for sale on a market with a view to profit. If capitalism were to be abolished, these economic laws would cease to operate; on the other hand, they would continue to operate as long as capitalism existed.
In this sense Colin Hines, an economic adviser to the Green Party, was right when he wrote in the Guardian (25 April) that "Globalisation is not like gravity", meaning by globalisation the effects of the pressures exerted on the home economy by competition on the world market: "The fact that countries with higher costs haven't a hope of competing with those where labour is cheap seems crushingly obvious".

Yes, it is, and this is one of the economic laws of capitalism, but he then "Yet in Britain, only one party has grasped it: the Greens. They have realised that to help workers worldwide we must stop gearing economies to ruthlessly out-compete each other. We need new goals: maximising self-reliance and ensuring that trade rules are governed by a pro-poor approach . . . Trade rules must be rewritten to discriminate in favour of domestic production".
But the existing trade rules, as for instance embodied in and enforced by the World Trade Organisation, are not just a voluntary policy option, but essentially a reflection of the economic laws of capitalism. Globalisation may not be like gravity, but it's not like putty either. In fact, as long as capitalism lasts, it is like gravity.
If the Green Party thinks that the trade rules/economic laws of capitalism can be changed so as to stop ruthless competition on the world market, and to be governed by a "pro-poor approach" or to permanently discriminate in favour of higher-cost domestic production, then they must be living on a different globe to the rest of us.